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How the Black Power Movement Influenced the Civil Rights Movement

February 20, 2020 in History

By Sarah Pruitt

With a focus on racial pride and self-determination, the Black Power movement argued that civil rights reforms did not go far enough to end discrimination against African Americans.

By 1966, the , the events in Mississippi “catapulted Stokely into the political space last occupied by Malcolm X,” as he went on TV news shows, was profiled in Ebony and written up in the New York Times under the headline “Black Power Prophet.”

Carmichael’s growing prominence put him at odds with King, who acknowledged the frustration among many African Americans with the slow pace of change, but didn’t see violence and separatism as a viable path forward. With the country mired in the Vietnam War, a war both Carmichael and King spoke out against) and the civil rights movement King had championed losing momentum, the message of the Black Power movement caught on with an increasing number of black Americans.

Black Power Movement Growth—and Backlash

Stokely Carmichael speaking at a civil rights gathering in Washington, D.C. on April 13, 1970.

King and Carmichael renewed their alliance in early 1968, as King was planning his Poor People’s Campaign, which aimed to bring thousands of protesters to Washington, D.C., to call for an end to poverty. But in April 1968, King was assassinated in Memphis while in town to support a strike by the city’s sanitation workers as part of that campaign.

In the aftermath of King’s murder, a mass outpouring of grief and anger led to riots in more than 100 U.S. cities. Later that year, one of the most visible Black Power demonstrations took place at the Summer Olympics in Mexico City, where black athletes John Carlos and Tommie Smith raised black-gloved fists in the air on the medal podium.

By 1970, Carmichael (who later changed his name to Kwame Ture) had moved to Africa, and SNCC had been supplanted at the forefront of the Black Power movement by more militant groups, such as the Black Panther Party, the US Organization, the Republic of New Africa and others, who saw themselves as the heirs to Malcolm X’s revolutionary philosophy. Black Panther chapters began operating in a number of cities nationwide, where they advocated a 10-point program of socialist revolution (backed but armed self-defense). The group’s more practical efforts focused on building up the black community through social programs (including free breakfasts for school children).

Many in …read more


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